Many Oklahomans can tell you the exact location they were in when they heard about the Murrah bombing on April 19, 1995.
For students born years after the tragedy, however, the bombing could be just another page in a history book.
Teachers at Jefferson Elementary School are making sure the students learn about the tragic Oklahoma event, but in a proper context.
“I was very concerned with how to teach them about such a violent happening,” Michelle Mette, Jefferson Elementary School first grade teacher, said. “I remembered going to the museum and seeing the chalk area … and so I thought first graders express themselves with pictures very well.”
Oklahoma schools are required to teach some curriculum on the bombing by law, but the challenge comes in teaching younger students. Mette said she decided to approach the lesson from the perspective of a child, with chalk drawings and teddy bears — which became symbols in the aftermath of the bombing.
“It’s definitely important to teach it,” she said. “We mention more the date and what to do when people are hurting.”
Walking in a single file line to the thin stretch of sidewalk just outside Jefferson Elementary, the first and second graders kneeled down, chalk in hand, and began drawing. The students from the six classrooms spread out, some with pre-sketched drawings on paper so they could recreate the artworks on the concrete. Many of the students had teddy bears in hand while making their drawings.
“We talked about we weren’t drawing pictures of violence. We were drawing pictures of love and hope,” Mette said.
Drawings of colorful hearts, messages of love and outlines of Oklahoma filled the sidewalks leading to Jefferson after the students were finished.
Mette said, in addition to the activity, the students were shown a video with some educational information about the bombing and how to help those who are hurt. The Jefferson Elementary School third grade took a similar approach to teaching students about the bombing. Connie Upton, Jefferson Elementary third grade teacher, described finding appropriate curriculum for their age group “challenging.” Upton said because many third graders have experienced a funeral by that age, they took the approach of creating a wreath as a show of respect and memorial for those who lost their lives.
Upton, Amanda Johnson, Dennie Rodgers and Renita Walker’s classes all contributed to the memorial. Upton said the third grade also took an approach of learning about the event through a lens of love, hope and community.
“Even in the face of tragedy you can do good things,” she said.